Attica Bank Trading Halted Amid Quarrel With Bank of Greece

  • Greek lender is battlefield in war between Stournaras, Tsipras
  • Central bank considers placing Attica under administration

Trading in Attica Bank SA was suspended on Friday after the Bank of Greece threatened to place the small Greek lender under administration, deepening the rift between Alexis Tsipras’s government and central bank chief Yannis Stournaras.

The central bank also suspended the lender’s license to issue new loans, objecting to the nomination of former Athens airport chief Panagiotis Roumeliotis to be Attica’s chief executive officer. Stournaras considers Roumeliotis unqualified for the job and has designated Theodoros Pantalakis instead.

Attica Bank has lost about 80 percent of its market value this year, more than any other Greek lender. The Athens-based company has committed to “proceed quickly with a far-reaching restructuring” to address the findings of an audit by supervisors on its governance structures. The Athens Bank Index fell 0.1 percent to the lowest since Aug. 19.

The quarrel over Attica is the latest clash between the government and the central bank chief. Stournaras, a former finance minister under the conservative government of Antonis Samaras, has repeatedly questioned Tsipras, including his tax-heavy fiscal policies and his dealings with Greece’s creditors. The two may meet this weekend to discuss their differences.

“The governor of the Bank of Greece isn’t a political figure and has an institutional role of political neutrality,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement on Friday.

Attica’s biggest shareholders are pension funds and state-owned companies. It has the highest ratio of bad loans in the country and has yet to fully cover a capital hole identified in last year’s stress test carried out by the central bank.

A central bank official said that if Attica’s shareholders don’t accept Pantalakis as CEO in a meeting Tuesday, the lender will be placed under administration. Pantalakis will be appointed as administrator in that case, the official said, asking not to be named because the decision isn’t public. The central bank is willing to accept Roumeliotis as non-executive chairman of Attica’s board, the official said.

Spokesmen for the Bank of Greece and Attica Bank declined to comment. Roumeliotis also declined to comment.

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